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Documentary About Astronomer and ‘Cosmos’ Author, Carl Sagan, in Development by National Geographic and Seth MacFarlane

@NASA Cosmo Studies

National Geographic Documentary Films is working on an upcoming documentary feature that will focus on the life and career of legendary astronomer, Carl Sagan, Deadline is reporting. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scientist is known for expanding scientific understanding of the universe. Throughout his life, he also helped millions of people appreciate the wonders of the cosmos.

The Untitled Carl Sagan Film will be produced by Fuzzy Door’s Seth MacFarlane and Erica Huggins. Academy Award nominee Nanette Burstein will also produce, as well as direct, the movie. Sagan’s widow, Emmy and Peabody winner Ann Druyan, will also serve as a producer on the documentary, alongside production company Hungry Man.

Along with his contributions to planetary science, Sagan was also celebrated for his capacity to spread joy about the marvel and immensity of space. He released his acclaimed book, Cosmos, which became the best-selling science book ever published in English, in 1980.

The cosmologist’s 1985 novel Contact was adapted into the 1997 Oscar-nominated sci-fi narrative feature film of the same name. Sagan and Druyan wrote the story outline for the screen adaptation, which was helmed by Robert Zemeckis. The drama starred Jodie Foster, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Lead Actress for her performance, and Matthew McConaughey.

National Geographic Documentary Films has released a statement about the upcoming documentary: “Serving as an intimate and cinematic portrait of Sagan, the Untitled Carl Sagan Documentary will explore his love story with partner Ann Druyan and with science. The film will include exclusive audio recordings, archival clips and animation, along with interviews with his family, friends and colleagues.

“With the full support of Sagan’s family and friends, the film will present a fascinating look into the life and career of one of the world’s most inspiring and revolutionizing scientists of our time,” the statement from the television network added.

Carolyn Bernstein, the executive vice president of documentary films for National Geographic, also spoke about the Untitled Carl Sagan Documentary. “Carl Sagan was a groundbreaking and revolutionary scientist who decoded the complexity of the cosmos and made planetary science accessible and relevant to audiences around the world. We are so excited to work with Nanette, Ann and Fuzzy Door to bring Sagan’s pioneering work and compelling personal story to a new generation of admirers,” she said.

National Geographic also noted that Sagan’s scientific endeavors and achievements encompass “a leading role in the American space program since its inception. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA since the 1950s, briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon, and was an experimenter on the Mariner, Viking, Voyager and Galileo planetary expeditions.”

The television network also pointed out that the astrophysicist helped solve the mystery behind the high temperatures of Venus, which was caused by a massive greenhouse effect. He also discovered that the seasonal changes on Mars were caused by windblown dust. The scientist also realized that the reddish haze of Titan was caused by complex organic molecules.

Besides earning his Pulitzer for his 1977 book The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, Sagan also won a NASA medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the NASA Apollo Achievement Award. Following his death in 1996, the National Science Foundation posthumously awarded him its highest honor, as it declared that his “research transformed planetary science … his gifts to mankind were infinite.”

Druyan also commented on Sagan’s life, which she called “a multidimensional epic. He was a pathfinder in the sciences and a force in the culture, articulating the numinous wonder of a science-based sense of the sacred. He is one of the greatest awakeners in our history, and I feel that with Nanette, Fuzzy Door, Hungry Man and NatGeo, I now have the right partners to tell his thrilling story.”

Burstein also admirably spoke about the scientist, saying: “Two things that most impacted my childhood were the death of my grandmother and reading Carl Sagan. Carl shaped how I view the world in the most fundamental ways. I am thrilled to be embarking on this trippy and poignant filmmaking journey, which has been an abiding passion.”

The Untitled Carl Sagan Documentary will be available exclusively on National Geographic Channels and Disney+. A release date for the movie has not been set.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Karen Benardello
Karen Benardello
As a life-long fan of films and television shows, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic in 2008. Karen has since been working in the press in New York City, including interviewing film and television casts and crews, writing movie and television news articles and reviewing films and televisions series. Some of her highlights include attending such local events as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and New York Comic-Con, as well as traveling across North America to attend such festivals as the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW and the Toronto International Film Festival. She has been a member of the Women Film Critics Circle since 2012, and the New York Film Critics Online since 2019.


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